Willard Boepple Big Red

Willard Boepple. Big Red AP, silkscreen on somerset

Deal, in Kent’s far east, has managed to preserve its largely isolated and unspoilt nature. It remains a working fishing town with a picturesque old quarter, barracks and a forbidding Tudor castle, all strung along a shingle beach.

Like other Kent coastal towns it is a treasure-trove of natural beauty and historic sites.  But they are also scarred by faltering economies, unemployment and poor neighbourhoods. Not too surprisingly Kent voted 59% in favour of Brexit, with only Tunbridge Wells for Remain.

In Deal there’s a struggle to keep independent shops and culture alive.  Local people have been campaigning hard to re-open its pretty Regent cinema. The town has not been known as a place to discover exciting contemporary art – until now.

But Myles Corley, with the help of his artist father John, has succeeded in transforming an out-of-the way seaside town into a serious destination for art lovers.

In just three years, their Linden Hall Studio has made a real impact with outstanding group displays, drawing artists from around the whole country. It opened in November 2014 after a four-year restoration of the building, an 18th century chapel which overlooks the lush green of St George’s graveyard.

At a time when galleries in London are charging some £17 admission for temporary shows, it’s brilliant – and worth the travel – to enjoy well-known and emerging artists in such a remarkable space without a penny changing hands.

“There aren’t many places outside London.” Myles says, “where you can see this kind of work, especially where there isn’t an established public gallery.”

In this Winter Show Myles has brought distinguished names together with new talent, selected from open submissions by well over 100 artists.

Daisy Cook Ridge and Furrow

Daisy Cook. Ridge and Furrow, oil and board

Paintings by Royal Academicians Eileen Cooper, Barbara Rae, Mali Morris, John Hoyland, Tess Jaray and Humphrey Ocean fit comfortably with brilliant abstract welded sculptures by David Evison, Katharine Gili and Robert Persey.

John Dobbs’ Yellow Truck at Dover Docks plays with the industrial structure of a rising ferry ramp, folding space in and out by means of illusions and shadows. You’ll never see the docks in the same way!

Willard Boepple’s Big Red abandons “representation” to link up with 20th abstractionists such as Malevich and Josef Albers. By navigating the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, this show picks up on areas explored in Linden Hall’s October show, To the Point of Abstraction.

Peter Clossick Hellenistic Venus

Peter Clossick. Hellenistic Venus, oil on board.

Peter Clossick explores the way light falls on the human body, mediated by a classical sculpture and a love of thick texture. He is a leading member of the London Group, a democratic artists’ collective, who will feature at Linden Hall in February 2018.

A heightened feeling for colour and the recurrent leit-motifs of sea and landscape help provide a visual rationale. The sense of continuity is enhanced by Linden Hall’s excellent relationship with the Artists in Perpetuity Trust (APT) in Deptford Creek, home to some of the UK’s most distinguished colourists who include John McClean, Clyde Hopkins, Marilyn Hallam and Paul Tonkin.

The Corleys have achieved a difficult thing – arranging work by 66 quite different practitioners in such a way that they enhance each other and achieve a unified whole. Not only that, they are continuing to make Deal a place worth a long trip from anywhere.

Deal recently had the distinction of being voted the best place to live by the seaside. Now we know why!

The Winter Group Show is at Linden Hall Studio, 32 St George’s Road, Deal, Kent CT14 6BA. www.lindenhall studio.co.uk until 28 January 2018. Admission free.

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